In this here topsy-turvy, wacky world of college football, there are only a few certainties:
A) Michigan State will ultimately implode in an unbelievably spectacular fashion.
B) Les Miles can take any end-of-game scenario and turn it into complete chaos.
C) Lane Kiffin losing to Steve Sarkisian just makes sane people giggle like crazy circus clowns high on meth and
D) Ohio State fans will be befuddled, furious and amazed when a Jim Tressel-coached team struggles on the road against a Big 10 opponent that's overmatched.
Seriously, people, calm the hell down. Has anyone been paying attention the past 10 years?
No, the Buckeyes didn't play well Saturday at Illinois. But the outrage about this performance seems a bit misplaced.
Consider the scenario: Early in the third quarter, the Buckeyes have a 14-10 lead when Terrelle Pryor, the team's starting quarterback and leading rusher (season and game) hurts his leg. Ohio State is going INTO the wind at Illinois' Memorial Stadium - and having been there this is not a pleasant experience. (Especially if you're downwind of the hog farms.) Tressel inserts the backup QB who promptly throws an interception. Pryor returns but is still nursing his injured leg and doesn't seem like he's going to run much.
Anyone who has remotely followed Ohio State in the Tressel era has to know what happens next. Tress shuts it down. He keeps the ball. He runs the clock. He's got the lead and if he can get the third quarter over with, he's got an anemic Illinois offense playing into the wind in the fourth. This is common sense to Tress.
Don't misunderstand - it's painful to watch and infuriating. Tressel can routinely leave no margin for error in these situations and he gets caught up in calling the same run plays over and over - when the opposition knows exactly what's coming.
But, as usual, it worked. And, as usual, Buckeye fans get worked into a lather (which is what we're best at.)
Now, actual problems to worry about:
- The potential loss of DB/LB hybrid Tyler Moeller could be devastating. Moeller was having a terrific season and while not that good in coverage is terrific open-field tackler and blitzer. His backup is true freshman Christian Bryant who showed well against Illinois but no doubt will get picked on in coming games - like next week against pass-happy Indiana.
- Pryor's pulled quad muscle - if it lingers - could force Tress to go super conservative. If Pryor isn't a threat to run, Tress has even less incentive to continue calling pass plays. The threat of Pryor's running ability is the one factor that makes the pass game and the run game better than they really are.
- Missed tackles and missed blocks were far too prevalent. The tackling improved in the second half as OSU got a better handle on what the Zookers were running - but still. Offensively, the line was reaching although it's tough when everyone knows what's comin'.
No time for panic, Buckeye fans, or worrying about how we match up with 'Bama or other nonsense. That's a long, long time from now.